Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Why Do Stupid People Not Realize They Are Stupid?

A bonus second evening pause: Considering some of the foolishness being imposed on free Americans by clearly stupid politicians, their minions in various government bureaucracies, and much of the mainstream media (as illustrated by tonight’s first satirical evening pause), I thought it worthwhile to post this short video, explaining the Dunning Kruger effect. I also thought it especially worthwhile to post, prior to the election.

The solution for everyone, no matter your intelligence, is to be humble, to always consider the possibility you could be wrong. Do that, and you will take the first step in recognizing when you do stupid things.

MadTV – Windstorm 97

An evening pause: We find this funny because it so accurately documents the inanity and stupidity of almost all television news. And yet, so many people who would laugh at this take with complete faith the reporting on COVID-19, all of which has been as absurd and as untrustworthy.

Hat tip lazarus long.

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


 

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

OSIRIS-REx sample grab so successful they are losing material

The samples from Bennu
Click for full two frame gif movie.

In a briefing today and press release, the OSIRIS-REx science team announced that they estimate that they have gathered a lot of material from the asteroid Bennu, at least 100s of grams, about twice the minimum of what they hoped to get.

In fact, images of the TAGSAM sample grab equipment suggest that there are some larger rocks lodged in its opening (preventing the flap from closing), and that the small movements they have done to photograph it has caused some of the captured material to escape. The image to the right shows this. You can see floating specks and their shadows (the horizontal streaks) that have escaped. At about 9 o’clock you can see a curve in the contact between a lighter material and blackness to its outside, bending towards the center of the TAGSAM. At other exposures they can clearly see a rock there, distorting the shape and thus preventing the flap from closing properly.

Because of this, they are foregoing the spin maneuver that would have weighed the sample, as well as one engine burst that would have slowed the spacecraft’s movement away from Bennu.

This means they will not know the exact amount captured until the sample gets back to Earth. This is a gamble, but they are confident that they have gotten a lot of material. According to Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator, the sample grab-and-go “got very down” into Bennu, as much as 19 inches. He is also confident that they grabbed more than a 100 grams.

They are therefore going to as quickly as possible store the samples in the Sample Return Capsule for return to Earth, beginning on October 27. They need to do a complex series of steps to make this happen, which is why it cannot happen until then.

One more detail: In their simulations prior to the touch-and-go, they had a range of estimates of how deep the spacecraft would penetrate. According to Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx plunged into Bennu at the softest part of that range, telling them that the asteroid is probably much more loosely packed than expected.

Because they are not doing that last engine burst means that they are moving away from Bennu for good. They will not return to the asteroid. Whether they will be able to get post sample grab images of Nightingale is unknown.

US sets new record of COVID-19 cases in one day

O no! We’re all gonna die! The United States yesterday set a new record of 77,770 new COVID-19 cases detected in one day.

Thursday’s numbers — 77,640 new cases — eclipsed the previous record set on July 29, when 75,723 new cases were reported, according to a tally by NBC News.

A total of 921 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported on Thursday. [emphasis mine]

I highlight the number of deaths to make the same point I have made repeatedly. Less than a thousand deaths with so many cases demonstrates again how this virus is relatively harmless to practically everyone who gets it. I am quite sure that of those 921 deaths, almost all were over seventy, and all were saddled with other very serious chronic illnesses that even without COVID-19, were on the verge of killing them.

Also, 921 deaths out of 77,770 cases calculates as a death rate of 1.2%. While this is much higher than the flu’s normal death rate of 0.1%, it almost certainly includes almost all flu deaths this year, since the CDC records practically none, something that is just not creditable. Moreover, there is ample evidence that the number of deaths that have been assigned to the coronavirus has been inflated, at least as much as 25%, so that higher number is certainly an overstatement. Moreover, it includes the epidemic’s earlier period, when the virus was more lethal and doctors were struggling to learn how to treat it properly.

To sum up, COVID-19 is merely a variation of the flu. It is weakening in strength. And it never was the plague our fear-mongering political class was claiming it to be.

Sadly, the story above does the same as all mainstream stories about COVID-19. It fails to mention these basic facts, and instead focuses on the increase in cases, as if that increase means millions more will die. It is all a lie, and disgraceful for anyone in a civilized society to do it.

But then, there are a lot of journalists today who have no self-respect, and are quite willing to do many disgraceful things for partisan and emotional reasons, rather than do their jobs properly.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."

--San Antonio Express-News

Sudan joins UAE and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel

The Trump administration’s successes in the Middle East continue: Sudan is apparently about to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain as the first Arab countries in decades to normalize its relations with Israel.

Moreover, there are rumors than another five more Arab countries are about to join in. They are probably holding back to see what happens on November 3rd. Expect a swarm of new agreements should Trump win.

This deal, along with the one with the UAE and Bahrain, are the direct result of Trump’s hard-nosed policies against the terrorist organizations running the Palestinian territories adjacent to Israel. Unlike past presidents from both parties since the first Bush, Trump has made no effort to pander to either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Instead, he has cut off their funding. He has also recognized the real strategic landscape in the Middle East, divided between Iran and its terrorist surrogates in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and every other Arab nation, and used that divide to gain allies.

During the 2016 campaign, he promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, just as practically every presidential candidate had promised since the mid-1990s. Unlike all those other liars, Trump kept that promise. He however also reshaped U.S. Middle East policy in fundamental ways, as described above, and thus has achieved real progress. Voters must remember this when they vote.

Space officials, from in and out of NASA, meet to plan Biden administration space policy

A group of senior space officials from both inside and outside of NASA held a closed door “war game” on October 20th, designed to plan out what they thought should be the space policy of the Biden administration.

About a dozen officials participated. Attendees included two former astronauts, Charlie Bolden and Pam Melroy, who have worked in space policy since their retirements. Bolden was NASA administrator under President Obama. Also participating were two former senior NASA officials—Mike French, chief of staff under Bolden, and Doug Loverro, a chief of human spaceflight for the Trump administration. Loverro was forced to step down in February and is now under investigation for improper contact with Boeing. The meeting also had participation from industry, including entrepreneur Rick Tumlinson and Marc Berkowitz of Lockheed Martin.

They claim that this is not at the behest of the Biden campaign, but what I see is a group of high-level bureaucrats from Washington gathering together to plan space policy strategy for Biden, with the expectation that should he win they will be well placed to inaugurate his policy for him.

The article did not name all the participants, but if any are presently working in the Trump administration or in NASA their participation in this “war game” was highly inappropriate. It is not their place to set policy, only to implement the policy determined by the elected president now in office.

Should Trump win on November 3rd, the attendance list of participants will thus provide a good guide on who not to hire, as well as who to fire should Trump’s new looser policy on hiring and firing take effect. These individuals have now signaled their partisan loyalties, and it isn’t with Trump or the Republicans. If any are part of his administration now they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, likely acting against his interests when no one is looking.

On this topic, I just bought this book “The Memo: 20 Years Inside the Deep State Fighting for America First,” based on this review, which states:

Higgins’ new book, “The Memo: 20 Years Inside the Deep State Fighting for America First,” is an eye-opening and unique book for a political memoir. It is not heavy on political wonkiness, policymaking stratagems, and personal vendettas typical of Washington, DC tell-alls. It is a refreshingly direct tale of a talented young man’s rise from the enlisted ranks of the military into politics and then policy-making, only to discover the realities of a brutal and seditious opposition fighting to preserve a decrepit, America-destroying agenda that culminated in an outrageous coup attempt against a U.S. president.

And while Higgins does “name names” in his book, when describing the subversion of the Trump agenda by those inimical to it, he does so only to drive home his larger point about the incredible obstacles President Trump has faced in orienting U.S. policies toward advancing his America-first agenda.

Seems very apropos at this moment in time.

Leaving Earth cover

In 2019 I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I sold about half of these, and with only a handful left in stock I have raised the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652
 

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!

 
Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.


"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Starship prototype #8 gets its nosecone

Starship prototype #8, with nosecone
Screen capture from LabPadre live stream.

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has now installed the nosecone on Starship prototype #8 in advance of its first vertical hop to 50,000 feet, or more than ten miles, expected sometime in November.

Curiously, hours prior to nose installation, SpaceX apparently removed one of Starship SN8’s three Raptor engines while also revealing that a spare fourth engine was already in Boca Chica. In other words, the prototype likely has only two Raptor engines installed at the moment, meaning that SpaceX will need to install another before the company can prepare for SN8’s next major test campaign.

According to CEO Elon Musk, the plan was to static fire Starship SN8’s three Raptor engines, perform final inspections and checkouts, perform another static fire, and finally attempt the first high-attitude Starship flight test. As of October 22nd, SpaceX has seemingly completed the two steps. Nosecone freshly installed, it’s likely that SpaceX will use the second triple-Raptor static fire opportunity to test the engines while feeding propellant solely from Starship’s liquid oxygen and methane header tanks – the latter of which is located in the nose.

The removal of one engine suggests they found something in that engine they didn’t like during last week’s static fire test, though that is mere speculation on my part.

The addition of the nosecone, with its own fins, clearly changes the appearance of prototype #8, making it look truly like a rocket ship. In fact, it looks more like the rocket ship imagined by science fiction writers for decades prior to the advent of spaceflight in the 1960s. The irony is that this is the first real rocket since the V2 in World War II to have this look.

India’s Mars orbiter confirms global dust storms speeds atmosphere loss

India’s Mars orbiter Mission (MOM) has confirmed that the periodic Martian global dust storms act to accelerate the loss of the red planet’s atmosphere.

The U.S. orbiter MAVEN found the same thing during the 2018 global dust storm. Moreover, the two orbiters focused on observing different hemispheres (MOM in the morning and MAVEN in the evening), and bot got comparable results.

On the radio

The podcast of my thirty minute appearance with Bill Bartholomew in Rhode Island is now available here. His description of our talk:

Bill Bartholomew welcomes Bob Zimmerman, the person behind the website Behind The Black for a conversation on all things space. How might the 2020 elections impact space exploration and technology? What are some of the key issues and projects the U.S. is involved in the space exploration and technology sectors?

Enjoy!

New Trump executive order suggests major house-cleaning should he win

The Trump administration has just released a new executive order that would shift many federal managers from civil service positions, where they cannot easily be removed, into a new category that will allow the President to remove them “at-will.”

The order would create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification.

…Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.

The timing of this order is most revealing. If approved it will go into effect on January 19, 2021, the day before the presidential inauguration. This suggests that if Trump wins, he does not want a repeat of his first term, when many civil service employees worked to sabotage his administration and its goals. He wants the power to fire people in large numbers, especially those who are in a position of setting policy, sometimes policy that Trump, legally elected by the American people, opposed strongly.

Be sure that this change will be fought hard by the administrative state in Washington, as well as by their backers in the Democratic and Republican parties. And though it would also give increased power to Biden should he win, it would still be an appropriate change, as the elected president should be the person in charge, not some unelected bureaucrats buried in the DC civil service.

Was there a catastrophic flood in Kasei Valles on Mars?

Overview map of lower section of Kasei Valles

Figure from paper

In our on-going exploration of Mars using the amazing high resolutions being taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), we return today to Kasei Valles, the drainage valley coming down from Mars’ giant volcanoes that I featured only a few days ago. And like that post, we must begin from afar and zoom in to understand what we are seeing in the final cool image.

Kasei Valles is a canyon system is about 1,900 miles long, and would cover two-thirds of the continental United States if placed on Earth. Its north-trending upstream section to the west and south of the area shown on the overview map to the right is thought to have been formed by some combination of glacial and volcanic processes. The downstream west-east section shown in the map instead appears to have been formed by a sudden catastrophic flood, which some scientists have theorized [pdf] occurred when a three hundred long ice dam broke suddenly, releasing the flood quickly across this terrain to create its features. The second map to the right, from their paper, illustrates this hypothesized event.

The white box in 60-mile wide Sharonov Crater near the center of the first map above indicates the location of today’s cool image below. The 1976 landing site of VIking 1 about 420 miles to the east is also indicated.

If you look closely at the first overview map above you can see that the rim of Sharonov Crater appears breached in its southwest quadrant, just to the west of the white box. This breach is less a break and more an area of increased erosion. Regardless, it sure appears that a massive flow pushed through the rim here.
» Read more

Why Barrett’s confirmation went fast: Senate Republicans finally grew a spine

Link here. The author outlines all the ways the Democrats tried to duplicate their slander campaign against Brett Kavanaugh, then notes this:

The biggest difference is that Republicans simply weren’t playing with these attacks. Each and every one of these stories — and dozens of similar ones — was met with swift condemnation or yawns. Every single one.

It took a few decades of the left playing the exact same games with most confirmation battles, but finally, the right figured out how to render those attacks worthless. It’s not just conservative Americans, but the senators themselves who are playing this differently.

Rather than the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately responding to the Washington Post’s anti-Kavanaugh attack by bending to the will of the Democrats, this time they just didn’t care. As Democrats openly said on national television that they would do anything to stop Barrett’s confirmation, rather than act scared, the Republicans were not moved. They haven’t responded with outrage or drama, but just a steely resolve to get the nomination done. [emphasis mine]

Why it took Senate Republicans decades to figure out this basic premise, that the best way to deal with bullies and temper tantrums is to ignore them, is another question. It suggests that for decades those Republicans really liked bowing to those tantrums, because they really didn’t want to achieve any of the conservative goals their voters wanted and that they always campaigned on.

However, fake conservative senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are gone, replaced with senators who are either more legitimately conservative (Marsha Blackburn) or faced with a tough reelection fight that forces toughness (Martha McSally). The result is that no Republican in the Senate is willing to play the Democrat’s game anymore. They can scream and kick and hold their breath, but on Monday Amy Barrett will be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

SpaceX wins partial approval to provide Starlink service in Canada

Capitalism in space: Though SpaceX has obtained permission to provide its Starlink internet service from Canada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, similar to the U.S.’s FCC, it still has not gotten full government approval to begin offering its service to customers.

It appears a different Canadian regulatory body, dubbed Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), has still not given its okay of the “satellite spectrum” SpaceX requires. From the second link:

SpaceQ had previously contacted ISED in June about SpaceX. ISED wouldn’t comment directly on any application, but did tell SpaceQ that the applications and approved website pages were up to date at that time. The website had last been updated in May. Since then, the website was updated in July. And yet there’s still no mention of SpaceX. It’s my understanding that the specific pages with applications and approvals is updated pretty quickly when there is new information to post. Though it took 3 weeks for changes to appear after Kepler submitted their application in June of this year.

With respect to how long it takes to get approval, ISED said the “service standard for the processing of satellite applications, including for those for foreign satellites, is 130 calendar days.” It’s quite possible that it could take longer.

This description carries all the hallmarks of a typical government bureaucracy whose only purpose is to block new companies and new technology. The political swamp of Canada might also be using it as a means of extortion for campaign funds from SpaceX. “Nice business you got there. Sure would be a shame if it didn’t get that license approval.”

I don’t think SpaceX needs to bow to these games. In the end ISED will back down and give approval, especially when the company begins offering its services just over the border in the U.S. The competitive and political pressure to give its okay will then be too great.

Lockheed Martin to move its smallsat rocket launch project to the UK

Capitalism in space: Lockheed Martin announced today that it is moving its Pathfnder smallsat rocket operation to a new spaceport in Shetland in the United Kingdom, with the first launch targeted for ’24.

This Shetland site is a different UK spaceport than the Sutherland site, also in Scotland, where both Lockheed Martin and the British company Orbex also hope to launch.

Russian oxygen regenerator malfunctions again

The Russian oxygen regenerator in the Zvezda module of ISS has malfunctioned again, the second time in a week.

“After the Elektron-VM system was deactivated, the crew, guided by the main operational group, dismantled it in order to detect faults. Oxygen will be generated by a backup system located in the US section until repairs are completed,” the spokesperson said.

This unit was launched with Zvezda in 2000. After ten years of operation it needed repair In 2010, and then operated for another ten years until last week’s failure. Though this second failure after last week’s repair could be fixable, the age of the unit raises reasonable questions about its future.

That it has worked for twenty years, and could still be fixed, speaks well for this Russian design however. Its longevity reminds me of home appliances from the mid-20th century, which routinely were expected to last many decades, and did.

If the time has come to replace it, however, I have doubts about any new “upgraded” unit. Technology development in both Russia and the U.S. has fallen in love with complexity, which often results in less reliability, shorter lifespans, and often units that fail to do what they were designed for. I fear the same would happen with any new unit.

ISS crew returns safely to Earth in Soyuz

After a six month mission on ISS, three astronauts have safely landed on Earth in their Soyuz capsule.

Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner spent 196 days in orbit, having arrived at the station on April 9. They left behind NASA’s Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’ Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who arrived at the orbiting outpost a week ago for a six-month stay.

Cassidy, returning from his third space mission, has now spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.

While serving as the station’s commander, Cassidy welcomed SpaceX Demo-2 crew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the first NASA astronauts to launch to the space station on an American spacecraft from American soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks for a total of 23 hours and 37 minutes, becoming two of only four U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks.

The three astronauts still on board ISS now await the arrival of four astronauts on SpaceX’s Resilience capsule, scheduled for launch in early to mid-November. This will rise the crew on ISS to seven, which I think is the highest since the retirement of the shuttle in 2011.

Images taken during OSIRIS-REx sample grab on Bennu

Below is an embed of a short eight second video of OSIRIS-REx’s sample grab yesterday from the surface of Bennu, created from 82 images, and covering at high speed the five minutes of approach, contact, and retreat. If you set the speed rate at 0.25, you can get a better view of the whole sequence of events.

From the science team’s press release,

The spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – is visible in the lower part of the frame. The round head at the end of TAGSAM is the only part of OSIRIS-REx that contacted the surface during the sample collection event. In the middle of the image sequence, the sampling head positions itself to contact the asteroid’s surface head-on. Shortly after, the sampling head impacts site Nightingale and penetrates Bennu’s regolith. Upon initial contact, the TAGSAM head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it. One second later, the spacecraft fires a nitrogen gas bottle, which mobilizes a substantial amount of the sample site’s material. Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material, and the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds.

The TAGSAM is designed to catch the agitated surface material, and the mission team will assess the amount of material collected through various spacecraft activities. After touchdown, the spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu. As expected, this maneuver also disturbed the Nightingale site, and loose debris is visible near the end of the image sequence. Preliminary telemetry shows the spacecraft remains in good health. The spacecraft was traveling at 0.2 mph (10 cm/sec) when it contacted sample site Nightingale and then backed away at 0.9 mph (40 cm/sec). [emphasis mine]

At the moment it appears they don’t yet know how much sample they have gotten, but they are very optimistic that they have gotten enough, based on the performance above. On October 24th, when they have gotten far enough away from the asteroid, they give the spacecraft a spin to measure its present mass and compare that to a spin done prior to the sample grab. The difference will tell them how much sample they have captured.

They will also be looking at images of TAGSAM over the next few days, which will also indicate what’s been captured.

The dying COVID-19 epidemic

Daily mortality from COVID-19 in the United States

Daily mortality and number of cases of COVID-19 in California

The time has come for another update on the state of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States, mostly because the evidence, as shown in the updated graphs to the right, continues to tell us that the epidemic is dying off, both in its deadliness and in its spread, despite what some ignorant and power-hungry politicians from both political parties might be saying.

There is also no evidence yet of a second wave of the virus, something that these same fear-mongering politicians have been touting. Both the national graph to the right as well as the graph showing California’s numbers below show this.

There is, however, ample evidence that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been corrupted in order to inflate the totals. CDC data shows almost no flu deaths in 2020, something that is simply not credible. More likely the totals of COVID-19 deaths are a combination of COVID-19 and flu deaths, with all the deaths assigned to the coronavirus because hospitals get more government money by doing so.

This combination suggests that all told this epidemic is essentially comparable to a normal flu season. The 2020 winter season was simply one in which we were hit with two respiratory diseases, one old and one new, and the two combined to make that season worse than normal.

To confirm what I have just written however I will let my new GP doctor speak for me. Dr. Robert Lending is certified in both internal medicine and clinical lipidology. Two years ago he became disgusted with the way his practice was evolving due to Obamacare and insurance requirements, both of which were forcing him to see an endless string of patients quickly, with no time to spend with each in order to make sure their needs were covered properly. As noted at his webpage,

In 2018, Dr. Lending decided to return to his roots of delivering personalized, one-on-one health care in a more intimate professional setting. He has partnered with Cypress Concierge Medicine and is now one of a limited number of physicians in the region offering membership-based concierge medicine to patients. This provides more time, attention, and VIP service than patients would experience at your average Internal Medicine provider.

As a result, when I called his office to find out if he would consider my own legitimate medical issues that strongly preclude mask use, he very quickly was willing to listen and work with me. For such concierge service you need to pay an annual retainer, which is not cheap, but based on my experience in the past month, it is well worth every penny. For the first time in more than a decade I actually feel I have a real doctor again, who will spend the time to oversee my medical issues and make sure they are taken care of. For example, I can call him anytime, and he answers the phone. With most modern doctors you never get to talk to them directly, except in your short visits. Instead you have to go through go-betweens, who act to protect the doctor rather than treat the patient.

One of Lending’s services is a periodic email he personally writes and sends to his patients, in which he reviews the most recent medical news of the day. Obviously, for the past six months these updates have been focused mostly on the coronavirus, from the perspective of a doctor in the field. I think what he wrote in yesterday’s email about COVID-19 is most pertinent:
» Read more

Penguin highway

An evening pause: Worth watching more than once, if only to escape the insanity of our time.

I can’t help wondering however why they all are walking on this route, and what is it they stop to look at to the right at one point? And why is one crawling on its belly?

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

Sample grab appears to be a success at Bennu

OSIRIS-REx has apparently successfully touched the surface of Bennu, grabbed a sample, and backed away without damage.

The link takes you to my embed of NASA’s live stream, which is mostly pr garbage. However, it is providing live updates from the mission control team, as it happens. Most of time, the NASA people running their pr effort even have the sense to shut up when such updates come it.

Right now we do not know how much of a sample was obtained. It will take some analysis of data and images to find out. They will know by the time of tomorrow’s press conference at 5 pm (Eastern).

Weird crater on Moon

Strange Ryder Crater on the Moon
Click for full image.

The photo to the right, released today by the science team of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), takes a overhead view of the unusual crater dubbed Ryder (named after lunar scientist Graham Ryder).

The crater is located on the Moon’s far side, on the edge of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the Moon’s largest and possibly oldest impact basin. What makes Ryder Crater intriguing is its strange shape, as well as its interior north-south interior ridge.

This crater was featured previously in 2012 in a spectacular oblique image looking east across the crater. Then, the scientists theorized its strange shape was caused by two factors, first that the impact was oblique, and second that it occurred on a steep slope.

Today’s release adds another factor that might explain the interior ridge. The context map below makes that explanation obvious.
» Read more

Today’s OSIRIS-REx sample grab from Bennu

Nightingale landing site on Bennu
The Nightingale landing site on Bennu, with
OSIRIS-REx superimposed. Click for full image.

Spaceflight Now today published a nicely detailed article summarizing the entire OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu, in anticipation of today’s attempt to grab a sample from that asteroid’s surface.

If you want to understand what is happening today, this article does a nice job of outlining everything.

I have embedded the live stream of the sample grab below the fold. It begins at 5 pm (Eastern) today. Be warned that it will show very little of the actual event, as the spacecraft will not be sending much data back to Earth today, during these operations. All we will really find out is if the grab happened, or was aborted to avoid risks, or occurred but the spacecraft was impacted by flying material during the grab. (Let us hope that this last option does not occur.)

The first images and data will not arrive until tomorrow, to be released during a press conference scheduled for 5 pm (Eastern).
» Read more

The face on Jupiter

The face on Jupiter!

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt has created a two-image blink animation from Juno images of Jupiter that shows the changes in the two oppositely rotating storm vortices, shown on the right. As he notes.

Two vortices or eddies, one cyclonic, the other one anticyclonic, can propell themselves mutually and slowly within the overall context they are embedded in.

…The rotation of the two vortices is perceptible in the image sequence taken within nine minutes. The cyclonic eddy is located at the left, the anticyclonic one at the right. The motion of the vortex pair, however, is too slow to be resolved. But the morphology of the cloud tops points towards a relative upward motion in this rendition.

That the two storms also invoke face I am sure also had something to do with his decision to showcase this data. Unlike the face on Mars, this face is real, though relatively temporary. It will eventually break apart as Jupiter’s storms evolve.

The animation can be seen at the link.

China outlines its updated space ambitions for the 2020s

The new colonial movement: China this week outlined some of its space ambitions for the 2020s, updating its planned lunar unmanned program as well as developments in its rocket industry.

For the Moon they plan the following:

Chang’e 6, a backup mission for this year’s sample-return launch, is scheduled to head to the moon in 2023 or 2024; Chang’e 7 is planned to launch around 2024 with the dual aims of landing on the south pole of the moon and closely studying the region from orbit. An eighth mission is also in the works for later this decade.

As for their rocket industry, CASIC, the government entity that supervises China’s commercial space activities (including a number of private companies operating independently but supervised closely by it) announced plans for a reusable two-stage reusable spaceplane, a new constellation of satellites, and a number of new quick-launch solid rockets aimed at doubling their launch rate.

Leak on ISS still leaking even after being temporarily sealed with tape

Even though Russian astronauts have now patched with Kapton tape the 1-inch crack where they thought the leak in the Zvezda module on ISS was located, the loss of air has continued, and even increased.

The pressure in the Zvezda module of the International Space Station (ISS) keeps lowering, although the fissure was patched with Kapton tape, and even faster than before the fix, the crew told the ground control on Tuesday, as broadcast by NASA.

They are going to add more tape to the patch and see if this seals the leak.

Meanwhile, there has been little discussion about the nature of this 1-inch crack. Was it caused by a micrometeorite, or is it a stress fracture? And where exactly is it, and does that location help explain it?

Inquiring minds need to know!

SpaceX completes static fire test on Starship prototype #8

Capitalism in space: SpaceX last night successfully completed the static fire test on its eighth Starship prototype, for the first time firing three Raptor engines simultanously.

Video of the test, cued to just before ignition, is embedded below the fold.

The company will now install the nosecone on the prototype, repeat this static fire test again in about a week, and then prepare it for its first flight, an expected 50,000 foot hop. I expect that hop to occur in early to mid-November, about the same time the next manned Dragon flight will occur.

» Read more

1 2 3 758